It's tempting to think that slapping a few stickers on the doors of your car shouldn't be of any concern to your insurer, but you could actually be very wrong on that point. Consider the example of one woman who, in 2015, was told that her stickers with religious messages could void her policy.
The prospect of your insurer invalidating your policy just when you really need it can, unsurprisingly, be a major source of worry. Therefore, it is in your interest to verify what insurers class as "modifications", as the answers could surprise you - and land you in trouble with an insurer.
In the eyes of insurers, "modifications" can encompass a wide range of things - from something as supposedly cosmetic as a racing stripe to an addition as potentially distracting as a louder exhaust. However, much of the time, it isn't the modification itself that is the problem.
Insurers are likelier to fret about how your selection of a particular modification reflects on your driving style. It's well known that insurers calculate their premiums based on the driver's risk profile, and it's clear to see why, as fitting a turbo engine can send premiums soaring as much as 132%. After all, the faster the car, the higher its risk of ending up in accidents.
In other cases, modifications can put the car at higher risk of being vandalised or broken into. For example, placing an expensive sat nav on a car's dashboard could spur a 10% increase in premiums, says AOL, because that vehicle will more easily attract the notice of thieves.
A turbo engine has topped a recent list of the most potentially premium-inflating car modifications. However, other optional extras which price-conscious drivers should probably give a wide berth include changing the car bodywork, as that could land you with 66% higher monthly charges.
Changing the transmission or gearing would be nearly as costly, with the potential rise here cited as 63%. Meanwhile, entirely remodelling the body kit and panel would give you 57% costlier premiums. Certain changes might give insurers the impression that you intend to drive less safely, likely explaining why adding roll bars and roll cages and removing seats can add 41% to premiums.
However, what if you intend to change the paintwork? Going through with that proposed alteration could make your insurance 36% pricier, but what would be the rationale behind this? You could be similarly puzzled that 22% costlier premiums can result from adding stripes, badges or decals.
Such rises could be due to how the cosmetic tinkering makes your car more valuable or a more obvious target for thieves or vandals. However, there are good reasons to fear that even supposedly inoffensive changes could, instead of growing your premiums, actually invalidate your insurance.
Picture a scene where you typically use your car for such routine purposes as the morning commute and making occasional leisurely trips along countryside roads. However, if you then start a business, check whether your existing insurance policy covers you putting the car to commercial purposes.
Your existing policy might, for example, not permit you to attach vinyl wraps, bumper stickers or murals that, on your car, promote your new business. If you check with your insurer before adding any of these modifications, you might find that, even if they would put you in breach of your policy, switching to a different, more fitting policy is not as arduous as you feared.
It's not all bad news when it comes to modifications, as some could not only leave your cover intact but also lower the premiums you usually pay. This can happen if the changes bode well for your safety on the road. For example, fitting parking sensors results in a 13% cut to the average premium.
Meanwhile, data reveals that installing a tow bar - an obvious boon if you love caravans - can slash that premium by an even more generous 20%. Your insurance costs could also be trimmed if you add a black box that can pick up on your safe driving habits and report them to your insurer.
One way in which you could modify your car while minimising the impact on your insurance is by carrying out those changes when your policy is up for renewal. Naturally, you would need to declare changes made mid-term anyway; however, this would likely see the insurer charge you adjustment fees which could fall somewhere in the range of £25 to £30.
Even relatively minor tweaks could incur expensive administrative fees which would continue to apply in cases where higher premiums wouldn't. However, by waiting for the renewal notice to come your way before you let your insurer know that you intend to make any modifications, that company might waive the admin fee it would impose if you declare halfway through a term.
What exactly counts as a modification can differ between insurers. For that reason, when you tinker with your motor even in what seems like a purely cosmetic fashion, you could be unsure whether your insurer will have a problem with it. The key rule here is: always ask.
Enlarging the engine or adding alloy wheels would affect your vehicle's performance and, thus, can have obvious implications for insurance. However, the picture isn't quite so clear-cut when you apply stickers. While a National Trust or "baby on board" sticker might seem innocuous, you should still raise the issue with your insurer to prevent ending up in hot water.
The consequences of not treading sufficiently carefully could be serious. It's good practice to inform your insurer of intended changes before you make them. If you simply implement those changes without declaring them and the insurer only finds out when you are claiming due to an accident, that claim could be rejected. The insurer might even be entitled to withdraw your cover.
You might be looking for a policy rather than seeking to keep one, perhaps because you have only just become a qualified driver or want to switch to a different policy or insurer. During the application process, remember to be open about any modifications which have been added to your car, as failing to do so would be fraud, as warned in an article by The Guardian.
This is applicable even if the vehicle was bought second-hand and its former owner was responsible for its modifications. Insurers may not distinguish between modifications added on your initiative and those that weren't. Given how such tweaks can push up insurance premiums, could you counter such rises through means other than, obviously, leaving off any modifications?
One possible remedy is turning to our insurance company, Call Wiser, in your search for car insurance quotes that won't break the bank. We can take into account various facets of both your car and you as a driver as we look for a suitable car insurance policy.
You can get the ball rolling by dialling us on a mobile via 0333 003 3270 or from a landline on 0800 298 2190. It can take just minutes for us to return to you with a quote when you contact us by phone.
Author: Call Wiser
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